Governor’s Address opening New Parliament Year 2013 – 2014

Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

On this day September 10th 2013, we gather here in conformity with our constitutional obligation to open the new parliamentary year and present the government’s agenda for the coming year.


This recurring annual event on the second Tuesday of September thus represents an important moment in the democratic process of our young country. It marks the start of the new political year and underscores the duties and responsibilities of Parliament and government. I therefore in my capacity of Governor of Sint Maarten hereby congratulate all parliamentarians and the people of Sint Maarten with the opening of the fourth parliamentary year since the birth of our country on October 10th 2010. It is at national moments like these that we come together as one people to reflect on our common interests and aspirations for a strong and united Sint Maarten.

Looking back at the past parliamentary year we have witnessed and participated in the celebration of a number of historic milestones which are inextricably linked to our presence here today.

· The first milestone regards, our joining with our partners in the Kingdom in witnessing the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the celebration of the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander on April 30, 2013 in Amsterdam, ushering in the start of a new era in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As a result we will be welcoming His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and her Majesty Queen Maxima on November 12th on their first official visit in their capacity as King and Queen. This as we prepare to join in the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on November 30th this year.

· And the second milestone being the commemoration and celebration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on July 1st of this year highlighting the value we place on our freedoms and rights as a people. Freedoms and rights which we have pledged to uphold and defend. Today’s opening of parliament thus ushers in a new political year in which you return to the halls of government to deliver on the promise to represent the will of the people.

As we look ahead it is my hope that you, as representatives of the people, will continue to find inspiration in the unifying force of these milestones.


Madame Chairlady, Members of parliament

Government’s policy plans for the coming year as outlined here has been placed and must be viewed within the context and challenges of the prevailing constitutional and regulatory framework, of the current socio-economic setting and of the global financial and economic climate.

In that regard the government has, with a view to further develop Sint Maarten, identified several focal issues including: (1) economic diversification, (2) Fiscal Reform and simplification (3) Social safety nets (4) Job creation (5) Training (6) Poverty Alleviation (7) Community development (8) infrastructural development (9) Legislative focus (10) Electoral reform (11) Labor and immigration reform (12) National Insurance and (13) the further development and strengthening of the justice ministry. Based on the governing declaration of May 2013, considering the limited financial room and given the time remaining in this governing term, government has decided to focus on a number of policy priorities. The objective of which is to capitalize on the efforts towards a new corporate culture for the government of St. Maarten.

This calls for creativity to "do much with little", to prioritize within priorities and to think beyond ministerial boundaries. Essential to government’s vision and thus underpinning its focal issues are the following focal points: consensus building, long term planning, integrity, efficiency, transparency, and responsibility.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament


Based on this, the government is committed to the development of a National Development Plan as the basis for a coordinated, balanced and sustainable development of our Country. In that context Government is particularly occupied with the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. As such Government will, as an integral part of every ministry’s agenda;

· Execute a Core Task Analysis;

· Reinforce its envisaged service-oriented approach thus constantly keeping the relationships between government and the electorate under review;

· Present an integrated approach to the awareness of and promotion of nation building and nationalism; and

· Develop the requisite social infrastructure – alongside the provision of social safety nets and essential services – towards the alleviation of poverty.

Critical to government’s overall vision is the participation of the stakeholders in the realization of the programs designed to foster their individual, community and national development.


Madam Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

Having established the promotion of integrity in government as a key, government is drafting an Integrity law to establish an Integrity Bureau. Other initiatives in this regard include:

· The continuation of the organization wide training programs on integrity;

· The implementation of an Integrity Desk; and

· The commissioning of Transparency International to conduct a National Integrity Systems assessment.

Moreover, given the time remaining for the governing term in view of the termination of the electoral mandate in 2014, government has started with the preparation and execution of the legislation and regulation required for the holding of elections on the island.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

In endeavoring to carry-out its policy agenda the biggest challenge government faces is recruitment of qualified and specialized personnel. Thus to achieve and secure the sustainability of its objectives government is committed to capacity building. Namely it is also government’s belief that more attention should be paid to the government’s role as employer of a large and diverse civil servants corps. Government will seek to build it staff by improving opportunities for local expertise and continued personnel training in policy development and legislative advise. In this context the government shall replace short term contracts and establish an educational institute for civil servants.

Moreover ways of contributing to the wellbeing of its employees have been investigated. Ideas resulting from this analysis include a parent-school program for young parents, increasing the pension age to 62 years, flexible working hours, and a fitness program. Further, although it would be a change to general labor conditions, the government is seeking support for amendments to the maternity leave conditions as stipulated in the Civil Code, allowing mothers more time off with their newborns.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

Additionally, to foster its objectives the government intends to give the highest priority to "raising standards" in education, sports and culture. Government shall do that:

· Through the improvement in quality, service and professionalism;

· Through the promotion of the principles of equity, access, efficiency and excellence; and

· By strengthening international relations in the region for the promotion of sports, education, culture and youth affairs.

Important initiatives in this regard include, among others:

· First, the establishment of an Education Council;

· Second, the development of standards for the implementation of education and sports;

· Third, the fostering of interscholastic sports activities;

· Fourth, the development of the infrastructure for branding St. Maarten as a language hub; and

· Fifth, the introduction of protocols to report child abuse and neglect.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

Government will in addition implement a comprehensive set of measures to develop and prepare our youth for their roles in society. These include among others:

· First, the organization of participatory fora on the rights, responsibilities, and Code of Conduct for teachers and staff as well as the engaging of parents & social groups and NGOs as partners for national development actions;

· Second, the creation of social safety nets through the integration of education, youth and sports departments and activities, including the broadening of afterschool programs and the introduction of a breakfast program for all public schools;

· Third the adoption of the " healthy school" principles as well as the introduction of the one laptop per child program;

· Fourth, the promotion of national teams in sports, culture and educational activities;

· And fifth, the fostering of closer relationships with our French neighbors in the north as well as the promotion of interregional cooperation with CARICOM countries and Venezuela in the areas of education, culture, youth and sports affairs.


Underscoring the importance of culture in nation building and in national development planning government shall:

· Encourage and support artistic, cultural and sporting potential;

· Promote the documentation of the intangible heritage; and

· Promote inclusion of cultural calendar events in the schools’ curriculum


Madam Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

The Government, cognizant that the people of Sint Maarten want and expect their health care, social development and labor systems to be there when they and their families need it most, is committed to promoting and protecting the health, safety and general well-being of the population. Government’s mission therefore centers on four pillars::

• The first pillar is the promotion of a healthy and social supportive community. To realize this government is developing a number of projects including the INDP helpdesk, and capacity building activities for NGOs and Community councils.

• The second pillar involves the preventing of unhealthy living conditions, protecting socially vulnerable groups, promoting employment opportunities and the general wellbeing of St. Maarten’s society.

• The third pillar addresses the promotion of the general wellbeing and quality of life of our population by means of services such as health protection, health promotion, labor mediation, labor & dismissal licenses, emergency medical services, social security, community development and social work & counseling and supervision.

• And the fourth pillar is to secure accessibility to health insurance and social security systems with the main project being the phased implementation of the National Health Insurance plan.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,


Focusing on community development and infrastructural development as two of its focal issues government to address the challenges of increasing population density and traffic congestion is in the process of preparing a new ordinance, that modernizes existing legislation in the area of public housing, spatial planning, environment and infrastructure development. Important policy initiatives in this regard include:

· The preparation of a Housing Vision;

· The establishment of a policy for sustainable energy;

· The completion of a global structure plan and of the zoning plans for the island to regulate developments; and

· Measures to reduce the processing time of permits to an average of 8 weeks and to eliminate the backlog in processing building permits.


Moreover, government intends to carry-out a number of major infrastructural projects including:

· The realization of road network improvements such as Link 6 connecting Weymouth Estate to Dutch Quarter;

· The execution of drainage improvements such as the expansion of the Illidge Road flood gates; and

· The start of the construction of the waste to energy facility project in 2014.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

In addition to housing, health care, education, employment and good public infrastructure, people all over the world desire safety and security for themselves, and for their families and friends. Safety and security in their homes, schools, workplaces and on the streets, but also a system of law enforcement – strongly rooted within the Rule of Law – which they can trust and rely on. A society that is fair and just, in which small and big criminals are being prosecuted and in which crime does not pay. It is the task of any government to serve its citizens by helping to create such a society. This is the vision of this government.

This vision may be called ambitious, but indeed ambition and leadership are needed to foster and restore the confidence – at home and abroad – that all involved in the Sint Maarten public sector are working towards the general interest of the people of Sint Maarten. At the same time we need to be realistic and realize that this cannot be achieved over night.

Given this vision, considering the limited time available and in keeping with its result oriented business-like approach, government has decided to present a safety and security action program of urgent matters that need to be addressed in the interest of our country.

This safety and security action program has three core elements: (1) compliance, (2) maintenance and (3) development.

· The first element of the safety and security action program regards compliance with agreements made. Essential in this regard are the measures to ensure compliance with the plans of approach for the police force, the national detectives organization and the prison. In particular work has been started on the expansion of the prison and preparations are underway to establish a youth detention center in Cay Bay. Moreover, government in its efforts to combat money laundering is taking measures to ensure adherence to the standards of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. And likewise government has prioritized the recommendations of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for implementation aimed at combating human trafficking.

· The second element of the safety and security action program regards the maintenance of law and order. Law and order are crucial for the economic and touristic development of Sint Maarten. To that end the government will engage, where possible together with other organizations on a crackdown of irregularities that threaten to disturb the peace on our island. For this element of its agenda government will seek to use the expertise of our law enforcement partners abroad, those on French Saint-Martin, Aruba or Curacao or those in the Netherlands or the US. Other international organizations, such as Interpol, will also be invited to share their knowledge with us.

· And the third element of the safety and security action program regards the development of new urgent initiatives on laws and policies. To that end government will introduce a system of justice certification and put in place a unit to execute audits on compliance with anti-corruption and anti-money laundering measures and on meeting the standards established for certification. This as part of a campaign to structurally tackle corruption and money laundering, which at the same time will contribute to improving the image of businesses and doing business in the public and private sector on St. Maarten.


In the area of constitutional development the government aims to promote the development of sound constitutional practices through the possibility of a limited but important increase in the role of the Constitutional Court of Sint Maarten and in particular to be able upon request to advise parliament and government on constitutional issues.

Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

The realization of government’s policies is dependent on positive developments in the economy. As a result government’s economic policy agenda will be geared at facilitating sustainable growth and development. Important aspects of governments economic agenda include the strengthening of Sint Maarten’s tourism with an emphasis on quality enhancements, training, the promotion of public private partnerships and the facilitation of private investments and thus the creation of employment. Government will also continue to seek to broaden the islands economic base. Initiatives to foster medical tourism will be pursued and government will continue to work towards the establishment of the tourism authority.


Essential to Sint Maarten’s economic development as a small open economy is the maintenance of good foreign relations. On a foreign relations level, government considers cooperation on a kingdom, regional and international level important to foster and guarantee a sustainable development. As such government will continue to work at maintaining good relations with its partners in the Kingdom. Noteworthy is that preparations for the planned evaluation of the new Kingdom structure in 2015 will start in 2014. Moreover, government is working with the ministry of defense to have a military base established on the island adding to the available security resources on the island and thus to the sense of safety which is critical for economic stability. The government will further finalize its foreign policy document in which special attention will be given to our relationships and partnerships with the Kingdom, with French St. Martin, with the region, with the United States and with the European Union.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

To cover the costs of government’s policy agenda it is essential to generate sufficient funds. In that respect government will continue to collectively examine ways and means to cut all unnecessary costs and find "new" revenues. Government is committed to managing the finances of the country in a general sense, within the constraints of the country as well as in relation to shared entities with other countries in the Kingdom such as the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten which manages our monetary affairs.

In the short term the main objectives of government’s financial policy agenda are:

· to complete the 2013 Budget before October 1st

· to have the 2014 budget approved by the end of this year ; and

· to finalize the 2012 annual accounts by December 1, 2013.

Essential in that regard is to ensure compliance with the provisions of the national ordinance for government accounts ("Comptabiliteitslandsverordening”) as well as with the criteria of the Kingdom Law on financial supervision.

To support these actions the government shall implement:

· measures to realize a modern tax system and mature tax compliance;

· measures to improve the quality of planning and control processes; and

· measures to improve efficiency and service as well as compliance, by integrating the tax department and strengthening public services.


Madame Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

The time for the realization of the policies and plans outlined here is short and government is dedicated to the task before it to deliver on the objectives of its May 2013 governing declaration and continue to build our island in the interest of the people of Sint Maarten.

In this new parliamentary year, government will therefore reach out to you with various legislative initiatives towards the execution of its plans and realization of its objectives. As representatives of the people of Sint Maarten, government looks forward to your participation and your support in achieving the outlined vision for the coming period in the interest of the people of Sint Maarten.


Madam Chairlady, Members of Parliament,


As you on behalf of the people deliberate on the issues of national interest which will come before the you, may God guide you and give the wisdom and strength fitting to the responsibilities bestowed on you.

Thank you, God Bless you and God Bless our Beloved Sint Maarten.